New finish in Liège may tempt Olympic champion
Though the northern, cobbled Classics remain his focus, Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet has not ruled out a tilt at winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège this April.
The route of the final spring Monument has been changed for 2019, the new flatter finish in central Liège favouring the Belgian and he is clearly tempted to add a second Monument to his palmarès.
“Yes, for sure,” he responded when asked if he was considering Liège at the pre-Tour of Oman press conference on Friday. “It will be decided in the week before. Amstel [Gold Race] is always a big target for me, and there has to be some energy left in the tank.
“Two years ago I did Liège and I was 12th in a super-hard race, now they’ve changed the finish a little bit in my favour, but I still need to have some freshness.
“I know the region really well, I have a house there and for me it’s always a really nice race, but with my qualities as a rider I am better off going to Flanders.
“I don’t have the palmarès to say I’m only going to focus on Liège, so first we see how it goes in the Flemish Classics.”
Van Avermaet, who now rides for the newly formed CCC, will be looking to confirm his form at the six stage Tour of Oman starting on Saturday. Last year’s edition saw him take one stage victory and a second place, though 2019 has already brought success.
Last week the 33-year-old won stage three of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, a result which not only gave confidence in his winter training, but helped the team build ahead of the most important period of the season.
The CCC squad is largely a re-branding of the BMC team Van Avermaet rode for and which folded at the end of last season, however only two of his six team-mates in the Middle East this week were with him in 2018.
“A stage win here is always super nice, and it’s always good to get to know the new team-mates better. We did a good job already in Valencia and you need to have the confidence of the team and see what the guys can do, how they are reacting and where their form is.”
While a result in Oman would not go amiss, the Belgian’s eye remains on a Classics prize.
After having been tarred with the image of always being the bridesmaid and never the bride, 2017 brought Van Avermaet unparalleled success.
He began that year’s northern races without a victory, but his spring streak saw him bag wins throughout the cobbled Classics, starting with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, finishing at Paris-Roubaix, with Ghent-Wevelgem and E3 Harelbeke in between. In 2019 it is once again this time which remains his priority.
“I am not targeting one race, just the period again. From Nieuwsblad to Amstel are my main goals and one of them would be great.
“Those races all stand on their own and if you can win a race like this your Classics season is always good. I am always really good with top-10s, I would like to win one of them, that is the main goal.
“In 2017, the best year of my career, I managed to do well, so I think I have it in me to do well and do a lot of races, of course I would love to peak close to Flanders and Roubaix than in Nieuwsblad, but I am not a guy who picks out one race.
“Nieuwsblad is not long to go but Liège is six weeks afterwards, so it’s a big period.”
While we will have to wait to see whether has the endurance to race in Liège, in Oman Van Avermaet has already identified stages two and three as ones he could realistically win, though Tuesday’s fourth stage, with its short steep finish may also suit.